Up the Creek: Cougars in Wisconsin
By Ken M. Blomberg
Years ago, a neighbor to the north of our place watched one of nature’s most dramatic events unfold when a cougar emerged from the snowbound woods and snatched and carried away a young deer feeding in their backyard. From the comfort of their living room and through sliding glass porch doors they stood, and watched in disbelief as the beast disappeared into the darkness.
A call to conservation warden Barry verified the story. He told me upon arriving at the scene following a blood trail in the snow was easy. It ended at the deer carcass. Apparently the cat slipped away at his approach. Inspection of the size of bite marks on the neck and tracks in the snow verified the cougar sighting. Cougars kill prey by breaking their necks. Swift and clean.
This year, a cougar was caught on a trail camera in Clark County on July 25th. According to the DNR, “Cougars can travel long distances in a short period of time. Without biological material for genetic testing, we can’t say for certain whether this is one or multiple cougars.” Like the cougar caught on a trail camera in Polk County on August 9th. And another one captured on a trail camera photo taken in Marathon County on August 14th. Confirmed sightings on trail cameras and verified tracks in 2018 include those in Dodge, Washington, Waukesha, Milwaukee, Fond Du Lac, Lincoln, Langlade and Douglas. You might as well include Monroe County. Friend Jim called and sent the accompanying trail cam photo taken from one of his deer stands in the hills south of Tomah. “Buddy Bill hasn’t shown up to bowhunt since I sent him the pic of the cougar by his rifle stand!.” he wrote. “Go figure.”
Several years ago on a pleasant sunny afternoon, a neighbor lady riding her bike stopped by our home. I knew something was amiss when she approached wide-eyed and shaking. “You’ll never guess what I just saw!” she exclaimed. “A cougar crossed the road right north of here and ran across the field and into the woods. I know what I saw, it was only a few yards away. Don’t tell anyone, they’ll think I’m crazy!”
Right around the same time another neighbor, six miles to the west showed me a picture of a cougar that passed by through their field. His wife saw it and took the picture before it went out of sight. They showed it to the DNR, but they passed it off as a large feral house cat. “I don’t care what they say, but that was no stray cat!”
Again, the DNR, “Cougars are sometimes confused with other animals – from observations of the animals themselves or observations of tracks. Some of the species mistaken for cougars in Wisconsin have included house cats, fishers, bobcats, bears (tracks), dogs, red fox, coyote and wolves. Mistaken observations are probably made when animals are seen under poor lighting, moving quickly, are observed at long distances, seeing only portions of the animal, or mistakes in track identification.”
Trail cam pictures, tracks and first hand accounts are hard to dispute. The frequency of sightings are increasing. It’s only a matter of time that someone discovers a den of cougar kittens in the hills along the Mississippi or in the coulee hills of southwestern Wisconsin. I’m old enough to remember when there were no reproducing wolves, elk or turkey in our state.